The Aidan O’Brien-trained Highland Reel has been entered in the Group 1 King George VI Stakes, it has been announced. Depending on his run in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot today, he could be bidding to win at the top level for the fifth time in the last 12 months. The Irish horse not only conquered his rivals in the UK last July, but he also continued Europe’s excellent record in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, where he was given an excellent ride from the front of the field by jockey Seamie Hefferman at Santa Anita back in November.
There is every chance that we could see Highland Reel a lot more in the States in 2017. O’Brien is not afraid to travel to North America for some of the leading races on turf. He will, though, first have to conquer a strong field for his defense of the King George. The current entries include Jack Hobbs, Frontiersman, and Ulysses in what could be one of the strongest runnings of the summer flat race in the UK for many years.
The bookmakers certainly feel Highland Reel is the one to beat again, as he has been made +300 in the horse racing betting for the 2400m contest. Jack Hobbs is second-best in their list at +400, while Frontiersman is available at +600. The race will take place on July 29 at 16:30BST.
Highland Reel –The 5-year-old seems to be getting better and better with age, and he proved at Epsom during the Derby meeting that he is one of the leading middle distance turf horses in the world when he won the Coronation Cup. He should be able to beat his rivals again at Ascot next month, where he is bidding to become only the third horse in the history of this race to win it twice.
Hawkbill – This 4-year-old caused a big surprise last summer when he scored in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. He’s already had three runs under his belt this season, so he will go into the King George fresh. The bookmakers may just have underestimated his chances once again, as he looks to have good value at +1400.
Frontiersman – The Charlie Appleby-trained Frontiersman is still bidding for the first Group 1 success of his career. His three victories so far have come in handicap and maiden company, so it does look like he is just short of Group class. He ran a cracking race at Epsom last time, finishing second to Highland Reel, but there is nothing to suggest that he can’t reverse that form when they meet again.
Eminent – Eminent was unable to get the job done in either the 2000 Guineas or the Derby, so it is hard to see him having success when he steps up against the older and most experienced horses for the first time in his career. There is clearly some talent in this horse, so he will have his day, but it is unlikely going to be at Ascot.
The final entries for the 2017 King George VI Stakes will be confirmed 48 hours before the Ascot race, but it is unlikely that there will too many defections from the current list.